Sunday, May 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak to consult ‘jehadi’ groups

Islamabad, May 26
Pakistan today expressed satisfaction at the tone and tenor of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s letter to military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf inviting him to New Delhi for talks, saying it had no “painful references or irritants.”

General Musharraf, who met senior officials and advisers soon after the letter was delivered to Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq by acting Indian High Commissioner Sudhir Vyas yesterday, ordered officials to initiate consultations with hardline religious and ‘jehadi’ groups opposed to the talks on issues that may be discussed during his summit with Mr Vajpayee.

A highly placed official said Pakistan was very much satisfied with the way the Indian letter of invitation was drafted.

“There is a general sense of satisfaction about the way the letter is drafted as it has no painful references or irritants,” he said.

A spokesman of the Pakistan Information Ministry had said last night that a reply to the letter was being drafted at the highest level and it would be delivered to India in two or three days.

He said the Pakistan Government accorded top priority to the Indian initiative as General Musharraf himself presided over the meeting of senior officials and advisers to scrutinise the contents of the letter and prepare a “fitting and appropriate” response at the earliest.

Besides drafting the response, General Musharraf also instructed his senior officials to begin consultations with leaders of various religious parties, militant groups as well as ‘centre-right’ intellectuals and senior journalists about the broad agenda that could form part of the framework of his talks with Mr Vajpayee, the official said.

The format of the consultations was, however, yet to be decided, he said, adding the “structure of the consultations could be “formal or informal.”

The decision to initiate consultations with various shades of opinion, including the ‘jehadi’ groups which were doggedly opposed to the talks, was considered to be significant as General Musharraf wanted to create a broad consensus for his first-ever summit with Mr Vajpayee.

Religious parties like Jamat-e-Islami have already welcomed the Indian invitation for talks.

Asked about the nature of the response being contemplated by Pakistan to Mr Vajpayee’s letter, the official said its tone had already been set with Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar stating on Thursday that Islamabad would respond in a “positive spirit.”

“There is no change in that perception,” he added.

Former All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq today urged the Pakistan Chief Executive to accept India’s invitation for talks on Kashmir, saying the move could be seen as a beginning towards the settlement of the long-standing Kashmir problem.

Reacting to Home Minister L.K. Advani’s statement that the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has no intermediary role to play in the talks with Pakistan, its former chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq today said negotiations without the involvement of ‘Kashmiris’ would be meaningless. PTI, UNI


Centre cant ignore APHC: Lone

New Delhi, May 26
Senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone said today the Vajpayee government would not be able to solve the Kashmir problem by isolating the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

In an interview to Doordarshan News channel’s “Zero Hour”, to be telecast tomorrow, Mr Lone said the Hurriyat could play a significant role in the Kashmir peace process and the Centre could not ignore its existence.

The Hurriyat was all the more relevant after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation to Gen Pervez Musharraf, he said, adding that the Hurriyat had been trying to impress upon both countries that the people of Kashmir mattered.

“The present situation belongs to us. If India and Pakistan are going to discuss things, they will have to take note of the people of Kashmir. So we are a party,” he added.

Mr Lone described Mr Vajpayee’s invitation to General Musharraf as a “very good step” and a welcome development since both India and Pakistan were in a tight spot. UNI


Six ultras killed in gunbattles

Srinagar, May 26
Six militants and a security personnel were among eight persons killed in separate incidents since last night in Jammu and Kashmir.

Three militants were killed in a fierce gunbattle with Army troops in Doda district’s Banihal area today, official sources said.

The gunfight ensued when troops launched an operation to flushout militants from the area. Three AK rifles, 12 grenades, four rockets and some explosives were recovered from the site.

A self-styled deputy commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen was killed in an encounter with the security forces at Safeda Ari in Surankote sector of Poonch district.

Two more were killed in a gunbattle with a joint search party of the Army and the special Operations Group in Zachaldara forest in the frontier district of Kupwara. PTI

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